Difference between food allergies and food intolerance

The terms food allergy and food intolerance are banded about so easily that many people do not know the difference between the two. Labeling a food allergy as intolerance could make it sound less important and potentially damaging than it is, and believing you have an allergy when you are merely intolerant to certain types of food could result in unnecessary anxiety.

Both intolerance to food and allergies can have similarities, although food allergies are far more serious, and can be deadly if not treated in a timely fashion. Long-term health problems can be caused by food intolerance that is ignored.

Intolerance to food – Onset

Food intolerance may be present from childhood or seem to come on gradually as you age. It may be worsened if you have a poor immune system because you have been ill. Some people find it hard to believe that unexpected intolerance that appears suddenly could be real, but it is perfectly feasible that you may not have noticed symptoms until they have been big enough to recognize. The symptoms experienced may not be apparent for hours, or even days after eating food to which you are intolerant.

Allergy to food – Onset

A food allergy will not creep up on you gradually, or simply be uncomfortable to deal with. The onset will be fast and the results will certainly be big enough for you to recognize straight away. However, gastrointestinal reactions may be produced more slowly.

Intolerance to food – Reactions in the body

If you are intolerant to a particular type of food, your body will not be able to break it down and digest it. This means that it will travel through your system quickly, or rest in your gut where it will ferment and cause gas. You may get diarrhea, bloating, and stomach cramps. You may also experience some of the milder symptoms people get when they have an allergy.

Major symptoms can be fertility problems, anemia, respiratory problems, skin irritations, migraine, weight fluctuation, and addictive eating. It is thought that the fight or flight response caused by eating food to which you are intolerant can be addictive, and the result can be the desire to continue eating food which causes problems.

Allergy to food – Reactions in the body

When you eat food you are allergic to your immune system will register it as an enemy attack. It will attempt to get rid of the invader fast. Your symptoms and reactions may be dramatic and amplified compared to those experienced when you are intolerant of food. Your reaction may be to violently cough, sneeze or vomit. You may also experience anaphylactic shock, whereby your throat and tongue swell so much that you need instant treatment in order to breathe.

The main difference between food intolerance and a food allergy lays in the severity of the symptoms experienced. However, food intolerance can also result in long-term damage if not dealt with by diet being adjusted accordingly.

About bridget

bridget webber

Bridget Webber’s background rests in mental health, counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP and art. She brings knowledge from her experiences into her writing and specializes in emotional wellness and the creation of, rather than search for, joy. You can catch up with her insights and musings on Twitter.

Twitter: @InsightManager

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